It was a beautiful weekend in north central New Jersey. Without needing to concern herself with the responsibilities of social distancing, Mother Nature seems to be enjoying the bliss of ignorance. Many are pointing to the environmental benefits of the economic slowdown that the world has enacted in an effort to limit the exponential spread of the virus. Whether it is causal or coincidence, polluted cities in China are seeing rare blue skies and Italy is seeing boars in the streets, ducks in the fountains, and dolphins and swans in the still rising waters of the Venice canals. “Nature is reclaiming its spaces“, said Twitter user Francesco Delrio. Closer to home, and in fact, at home, I watched dozens of fish swim in the pond behind our house. My brother found a mouse which had made a home for its pups under the platform on which we keep the firewood. Seeing this mouse reminded me of how bad a reputation the rats in New York give the rest of rodents, just like the people on the show Jersey Shore did for the rest of the people from New Jersey. This mother mouse looked more like a pet gerbil than one of those cat-sized pests that scurry through the sewers, streets, and subways of Manhattan.
Without any further ado or anything extemporaneous, here is the weekend review which I call The Weekend Miscellaneous.
The Prof G Show – a couple of years ago, I read The Four by Scott Galloway. From what I remember, it was a great book about the FAANG companies besides Netflix without which the acronym becomes homophobic in addition to everything else these companies are rightly and wrongly accused of so I will simply list them as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google. Scott Galloway, sometimes called “The Dawg”, is a well-known NYU professor who released the first episode of his new podcast, The Prof G Show, last week. I listened to it during my run on Saturday morning and enjoyed the varieties of the formats and the matters of the subjects of the show. He hosted another well-known NYU professor, Aswath Damodaran, sometimes called “The Dean of Valuation”, as his first guest. Sufficed to say, I will be tuning in for episode #2.
The Pond – there are pros and cons to everything and while the cons of the whole world slowing down and staying home have been evident and seemingly infinite for markets, small businesses, and individuals alike, it has given some people the much needed nudge to slow down and get back to the basics of food, exercise, and going outside (while keeping a distance from others). I spent all of Saturday afternoon at the pond as my brother did for a little bit longer, my father for a bit shorter, and my mother for a bit shorter than that. We split firewood with an axe, played bocce ball in the lawn, and my brother and I played a couple of games of chess on a board that I brought down from the house which my mother and her brother used to play with their father, my Grandpa Michael, who I never had the opportunity to meet (he died well before I was born). I imagine the pond will get a lot more action and appreciation from my family as long as we are holding it down at home, and in a time with so much bad, that seems good. It was a great day.
Joe & Naval – my Sunday run was the long of the week and I listened to an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience with Naval Ravikant all the way. When I get interested in people I think are worth learning from I tend to go all in for a bit to learn from whatever there is to consume from that person. I mentioned that I listened to Naval’s long podcast episode on how to build wealth last weekend. This weekend I listened to his less wealth-focused more health-focused conversation with Joe Rogan, and I am not all the way through it yet, but I have really enjoyed it thus far. It changed my thinking a bit on Universal Basic Income, and while I still think it would be a helpful measure to take temporarily for the extent of this ongoing crisis, I am less confident that it will be the best answer in the long-term in regards to how we can keep people financially and mentally healthy as automation continues to replace jobs like truck-driving and cashiering. There were a few ideas I noted down from this podcast which I will write about in the future, but for now, I will share only one quote which Naval shared which I believe is particularly applicable during this stay-at-home state of the world. The quote is from Blaise Pascal, and it says, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I do not know if all of humanity’s problems come from this inability, but I do know the truth in its reality. People are more distracted than ever with some of the smartest people in the world designing algorithms for companies like Instagram to literally maximize the amount of peoples attention they can draw to the platform so that they can profit from engagement via advertising, fulfill their fiduciary duty to their shareholders, and grow into as large and dominant of an organization as possible. The current time presents an opportunity by which many could benefit from not resisting the responsibility to be at home so long as it is a requirement, but rather, accepting the situation and allowing themselves to become more comfortable with being at home sitting quietly alone. As Naval points out in the podcast, the iPhone ensured that no one would ever be bored again, but at the same time it has occupied almost all of many people’s time that is not already occupied by something else. The Italians, whose country I have hated to see decimated by the virus, have a saying, “La Dolce Far Niente” which translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing.” I was fortunate to learn young during my gap year that the less you have to do the more you come to discover what you want to do, and the more you get to do it. Said another way, you can only find the interesting things you want to do by first minimizing the things you have to do, doing more of nothing, and following your interests and inspirations and seeing what happens from there. This was a big part of why I quit my job as an investment banker, to give myself that opportunity.
Scrambled Eggs – I already miss eating out at awesome New York City restaurants. I miss writing here on Mondays about all of the great food that I enjoyed over the weekend. I am still eating gluten-free vegan with intermittent fasting on weekdays and eating whatever I want on the weekends but the difference is that, while I used to mostly eat in on weekdays but out on weekends, I am now eating in everyday like most of the rest of us. One of my favorite parts about running is eating after. Food tastes so much better when one is truly hungry. After my run on Sunday, I made myself some scrambled eggs with toast and butter and it was absolutely delicious. I have learned a couple tips in the last couple of years that have made my scrambled eggs much tastier than they used to be. The most important one was from my buddy, McNulty, who I lived with for a little less than a year in San Francisco in a total of four different places as we both liked to move lightly and live differently. He is as great a friend to me as he was to live with and our five month stay in a beautiful home in PAC Heights in particular made for some of the most relaxed and enjoyable weekends I remember. McNulty’s tip for scrambling eggs the way I remember it was “low and slow”, as in, the lower the light, the better the scramble. I learned a few other tips from a MasterClass with Gordon Ramsey including recommendations to use a pot instead of a pan, taking the pot off the stove here and again, and the more butter the better, but McNulty’s tip is the best I have learned for the perfect scramble. The next time you cook scrambled eggs, try cooking them “low and slow”.
Stay home, stay safe, and have a good week.